The Magic are in a full holding pattern.
This week management will meet and begin making decisions and evaluations of everyone on the Magic staff and roster. Ultimately though, the Magic’s future lies in the decisions of one Dwight David Howard Jr.
This past season was all about Howard decision or indecision. It dominated headlines throughout the season and it is something that the Magic do not want to go through again. So at the end of the season as Orlando sorts through what is looking to be a mess of an offseason it all boils down to one decision once again:
Will Dwight Howard sign a long-term extension with the Magic? Does he want to be in Orlando for the short or long term?
It seems every decision the Magic are going to make this offseason will depend on that answer. Alex Martins has all but said that if Howard will not sign a long-term extension this offseason, the team will go forward with what is best for the team. That likely means getting what value the team can for Howard in a trade. And it seems that will get done before the season begins.
The one voice that has been uncharacteristically quiet though is Dwight Howard himself.
The public has not heard from Howard since TMZ cornered him coming out of rehab a little more than a week ago. There, Howard said he had been in contact with coach Stan Van Gundy and his teammates. Van Gundy confirmed that he had chatted with Howard via text before Game Two but said at exit interviews that he had not spoken to him since. Several players, including Jameer Nelson, said they had been in touch with Howard via the phone.
“He is bored to death because he can’t really do anything,” Stan Van Gundy said before Game Four of his conversations with Howard. “He is sitting in a motel and doing his rehab. and the rehab is not like he is running three miles or anything. You are starting out slow. He is bored more than anything.”
Howard said in that interview with TMZ that he feels like he is in jail because he cannot go anywhere and could not be with his teammates. Howard grew visibly frustrated in the interview when the interviewer brought up the subject of whether he was faking any part of his injury. That is how the interview abruptly ends if you watch it again.
Fans I have talked to have been very critical of Howard’s absence from the team during the Playoffs and at the end of the season. It is tough to say exactly what Howard is thinking. I will not pretend to know — otherwise, reporting would be easy at this stage of the offseason.
There were several reports that the doctor that operated on Howard said this was the largest piece of bone he had ever removed for this type of procedure. The injury Howard has is very very real.
“Back surgery is complicated,” Magic CEO Alex Martins said. “It’s not an easy thing. A lot of people have struggled with back surgery. Now, every indication we have gotten is we expect a full recovery. But it’s not something to play with. He needs to take the time that he needs to recuperate appropriately so that there is no question that he is ready to compete in the future.”
Martins said he does not know when Howard will return to Orlando, but the plan is to let him rehab in Los Angeles until he and his doctor decide it is best for him to return. The franchise is not going to rush him back not with this injury.
Martins did say that he, ownership and Van Gundy have been in contact with Howard while he is rehabbing. Surely that contact has included, or will include, discussions about Howard’s intentions for his future. Martins made it very clear during the Magic’s exit interviews that the team will not go through the “trying” season it went through this year.
One thing Martins did confirm at this point is that Howard’s presence in Los Angeles does not mean he has renewed his trade request. Martins unequivocally said Howard has not requested a trade.
But Howard does figure into the Magic’s future pretty prominently — an issue perhaps best saved for after Howard completes his initial rehab.
“We’ll have to look at every scenario as we sit down in the next couple of weeks and how we get to the beginning of the next season and how we put ourselves in the best position to compete for a championship next season,” Martins said. “Whether there is a piece there or not, that will all be part of the evaluation process. I don’t think anybody wants to go through the season we just went through. We’re going to do everything that we need to do to put ourselves in a position not to go through the season that we just did.”